Old Sarum

Old Sarum in Wiltshire can be visited as part of the Wonders of Wessex independent walking holiday

High above Salisbury is Old Sarum the site of the original town. The mighty Iron Age hill fort was where the first cathedral once stood and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark before being abandoned in favour of New Sarum, or as it is now known, Salisbury.

Old Sarum is 2 miles north of Salisbury and commands spectacular views from the ramparts to the 'new' cathedral in the centre of Salisbury. Being a highpoint in the local landscape with at least 5 roads converging on it, it was probably used as a sighting point by the Romans. You take the stroll up to Old Sarum from Salisbury on your first day's walking on the independent walking holiday Wonders of Wessex before heading up the Woodford Valley towards Amesbury and the prehistoric site of Stonehenge.

It is an English Heritage property and is open to the public. Click Here for details of prices and opening times. A guidebook is available from English Heritage

Old Sarum was originally an Iron age hill fort strategically placed on the conjunction of two trade routes and the River Avon. The hill fort is broadly oval in shape, and consists of a double bank and intermediate ditch with an entrance on the eastern side. The site was used by the Romans, becoming the town of Sorviodunum. The Saxons used the site as a stronghold against marauding Vikings, and the Normans built a stone curtain wall around the perimeter and a centrally placed castle on a motte protected by a deep dry moat. A royal palace was built within the castle for Henry I and subsequently used by Plantagenet monarchs. A Norman cathedral and bishop's residence were built at the western end of the town.

In 1219, the cathedral was demolished in favour of the new one built near the river and the townspeople moved down to the new city, then called New Salisbury or New Sarum. The castle fell out of use and was sold for materials by Henry III.

When Bishop Poore and the clergy started to relocate the cathedral in 1220 the rest of the town soon followed. By the mid 1500's there was not one house left standing as most of the building materials had been taken away for use in Salisbury. There are many examples of carved and decorated stone from the original cathedral to be seen in the wall of the Close which surrounds Salisbury Cathedral.

By the 19th century, the settlement was officially uninhabited and yet still had formal parliamentary representation, making it the most notorious of the rotten boroughs that existed before the Reform Act 1832. Up until then the borough of Old Sarum had a Member of Parliament despite consisting of only three properties and only 31 people with the vote.

Walking in Dorset and Wiltshire - Walking in England

Other places of interest on the Wonders of Wessex Walking Holiday: Salisbury - Shaftesbury - Tollard Royal - Stonehenge - Old Wardour Castle - Gold Hill - Wilton House - Ashmore - Cranborne Chase - Wessex - Woodford Valley - Stonehenge

Other Independent Walking Holidays


Old Sarum

Old Sarum

Remains of Royal Palace Old Sarum

Remains of the Royal Palace

Norman Ditch Old Sarum

Norman Ditches

Yew Trees Old Sarum

Yew Trees on Old Sarum